Over the coming weeks UK & Ireland PokerNews will be speaking to the best players in the British Isles. We will talk with some of the "big names" but also some of the low and mid-stakes grinders who go about their business quietly yet very effectively; one such grinder is Ben "F3nix35" Dobson.
Thanks for taking the time out to speak to UK & Ireland PokerNews. Can you let our readers know a little bit about you? Your real name and your age would be a good start because you're probably about 12 like the rest of the online grinders!
Hahaha, my name is Ben Dobson and I been playing poker for about, let's have a think, five years and I'm 23-years old now. I'm living in Nottingham where I graduated from university and my poker story is probably a bit boring because I basically got into it whilst at university.
I won about £1,000 during my first year at university just playing $1 and $3 games on PokerStars and I withdrew the lot and just went travelling around Asia in the summer holidays. A reaaally budget holiday! That was a lot of fun just travelling really light but when I came back I had to drop down to $0.02/$0.05 cash games because I had no money left - I had just moved up to $0.10/$0.25 before the withdrawal – and playing for these stakes was just too painful! So I got into the 45-man sit 'n' gos on PokerStars, mainly the $3 ones, and I just span it up since then basically.
You've really span it up too. I was just looking at your blog and seen you made $120,000 profit last year!
Online yeah. That was a good one!
Yeah a very good one! You're obviously playing much higher than $3 45-man games now! What is a typical schedule for you on an average day?
I have a schedule on my laptop that has basically every tournament on every site through every time zone but I prefer to play in the evenings so I tried to start around 17:00-18:00, I get between 9-12 tables up and I finish registering about midnight and that usually takes me up to around 02:00-02:30; and I try to do that five or six times per week.
Do you aim for a certain number of buy-ins / tournaments per week?
I don't actually look at the buy-ins and I don't really have set tournaments that I will play every day. What I'll normally do is load up nine tables and if I bust one I'll just see what else is coming up and load what I think will be the best value tournament.
My usual buy-ins are between $30-$200 freezeouts and $10-$50 rebuys but I have started to add the odd Sunday $100 rebuy in there and taking a few shots now that I have had the recent score.
Do you have any particular favourite tournament on your schedule or are they all just much of a muchness to you now?
I have actually, there are a few tournaments that I really do not like to miss. I really like the PokerStars.fr €100 nightly tournament. I've never actually won it but I've come close a few times and it is a fun tournament that I like to play. I like to play in the $100 freezeouts on 888 as well because they have a good structure but there are quite a few tournaments that I just like at random times such as the Ongame $20 rebuy and the Ongame $50 turbos. There's not one in particular that really sticks out but there are some where I see it is 18:00 and think it is time for these two tournaments.
Do you like them because you feel the field is soft in comparison to the buy-in and prize pool?
They're not necessarily that week, I just think their prize pools are really worth playing for, it's achievable or tournaments I have done well in in the past, or they are tournaments that I have played for quite a few years now.
Some of them are large field tournaments where I may have final tabled it three or four times but never won it so you can think to yourself “is tonight the night I'll win it” because I think you have to do that with tournament poker; especially if you're playing in big field tournaments because realistically you can a very long time without a win. Ideally I would like to have won every single tournament on my schedule but there are a lot that I am still nowhere near close to winning.
Let's talk about poker away from the virtual felt for a little while. You say you live in Nottingham, you must be a regular at the Dusk Till Dawn club then?
Yes! I like to go down and play their monthly deepstacks. I think they are probably the best tournaments in Europe really and it is perfect for me because I am literally five minutes away from them. They have great structures, every month there are great fields, good first prize money and its perfect really being on my doorstep. I think what helps them being so good is I their online qualifying. People like me who are playing an online session can qualify for these monthly tournaments online so I get to play in them for a fraction of the price without having to go out of my way to do so; if that makes sense!
Obviously we cannot talk about live poker without at least mentioning your recent binkage in the French Poker Series out in Amneville. Where you took down the tournament for €70,000; congratulations on that! I've been to Amneville, it's “different” isn't it?
Yeah. It's a weird town. When I was there it was sunny, it was really nice and picturesque but then there was a huge factory or refining plant right in the middle of the town; it is so random and ugly!
I qualified for the Main Event over on PokerStars.fr in a €50 double chance freezeout. I'd been playing online for two-to-three weeks and was starting to get the live itch so I was loading my usual schedule up but added some random satellites to European tournaments and managed to win this one. I didn't realise at the time that it coincided with SCOOP so I was a bit apprehensive about going and when I realised how hard it was to get to the place but I am glad I went now!
I remember seeing something about you been deep then looking you up to see you were three-handed but went to bed after watching for a short while. Didn't the end of the tournament finish at like 04:30?
It was ridiculous because we started three-handed play at 18:00 and I finally won heads-up at 04:30! And that was after I had driven to France in the morning of the tournament that took 10-11 hours, played Day 1b, Day 2 and then finishing at 04:30 so I was absolutely shattered!
You should have just chopped it up three-handed!
Well we did a chop heads-up which, in retrospect, I am a bit gutted about because the guy wasn't that great but he was really tired as well and he just wasn't folding preflop, so it was going to be pretty high variance. I lost a couple of 70/30's to him and I was down to 19bb to his 46 bb and I think first was €70,000 and second was €45,000 so for me that is a huge jump and I can't even win that many tournaments online that can justify the difference between second and first.
I know you flew out for the World Series of Poker last year. Any plans for Vegas this year?
Yes! I have just been writing down what I plan on playing this morning. I've sold action for the Main Event but I think I am going to be playing on my own for the rest of the series. I'm going in two week's time and I am really excited; it looks like I have around $30,000 worth of tournament buy-ins so it will be a big one so hopefully my good live run will continue. I was lucky enough last year to win a Venetian Deepstack 500 so it would be nice to win one again going into the series.
My plan is to grind hardcore online for the next couple of weeks because I have had two-to-three weeks off just relaxing. I've been hiking in Scotland and relaxing in Devon so I'm back in Nottingham and plan on getting the grind back on today and for two weeks solid then hit Vegas hard.
Talking about poker in general. How do you go from NL25 and $3 sit 'n'go tournaments to winning $120,000 in a year and playing in all of these big tournaments. Was there a Eureka moment?
There were a few lightbulb moments but I never had that huge online score to boost my bankroll big. My biggest realisations that got me going were bankroll management – becoming really really really strict – and game selecting and I think I was game selecting long before many of the other MTT players were and I think many of these players still don't game select properly.
I try to work out what my ROI is and how long a particular tournament takes and try to look at it as an hourly thing. So a tournament might have five-figures for first but it has 5,000 runners I might have an a better hourly rate playing in a €30 freezeout with 50 runners even if there is only €500 for first.
I also posted a lot on Two Plus Two, I have a huge book of all the notes I have ever written – some of the early ones are really funny. I like to watch a lot of videos too and replays of big events online, especially in the mixed games, and just trying to watch and learn from the best because I think that is the quickest way to improve.
Any tips for budding poker tournament players out there?
Keep playing tight preflop before the antes. Just play tight, solid poker pre-ante and play a very solid style with 20 big blinds. It is important that you don't start raise folding a lot and are not c-betting then folding a lot because the portion of the stack you are giving up is too high.
Something else I do when I am playing a session is to have an empty notepad next to me and if I am ever in a spot where I am not sure if it is a shove or if I play a hand where I am not sure if I played the correct line or I just want to check something then I just quickly jot down “ace-jack off 200/400 Party” and I try look over them, talk about them on Skype or post them on Two Plus Two to make sure I'm not getting leaks into my game.
So there you have it. A little insight into the MTT grinder Ben “F3nix35” Dobson. You can follow his progress on his blog and via his Twitter account too. Hopefully he'll be writing about a huge win in Sin City in the next couple of weeks!
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